Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/King, Edward (1612-1637)

KING, EDWARD (1612–1637), friend of Milton, was younger son of Sir John King (d. 1637) [q. v.], at one time of Feathercock Hall, Northallerton, Yorkshire, but afterwards an active civil officer in Ireland. Edward King, bishop of Elphin, was his godfather, and Sir Robert King [q. v.] was his eldest brother. Edward was born in Ireland in 1612, and seems to have been partly educated at the school of Thomas Farnaby [q. v.] in London (cf. Justa Edovardo King … 1638). He was admitted a pensioner of Christ's College, Cambridge, on 9 June 1626, at the same time as another brother, Roger, who was two years his senior (College Admission Book). In 1630, in compliance with a royal mandate, Edward was elected to a fellowship at Christ's. Milton, who was also two years his senior, was at that time hoping to obtain a like distinction. In the mandate, which is dated 10 June, his majesty is said to be ‘well ascertained both of the present sufficiency and future hopes’ of the new fellow (Baker MS. ix. 220). King, however, having been born in Ireland, his election, as the son of a Yorkshireman, gave rise to some dispute, and the questions arising out of his election were not settled until 1696 (ib. ix. 247). King did not discredit the royal recommendation. He appears to have been popular in the college, and Milton himself became warmly attached to his rival, on account both of his amiable disposition and scholarly tastes. During 1633–4 King was prælector of his college, and the admissions are in his handwriting. He was also one of the tutors, and was looking forward to the career of a parish priest. At the close of the academic year 1636–7 King set out for Ireland, on a visit to his brother Robert and two of his sisters. The vessel on which he had embarked left the estuary of the Dee, and was coasting in calm weather along the Welsh shore, when it struck on a rock and foundered. With the exception of a few who managed to get into a boat, all on board perished. King is said to have behaved with calm heroism; after a vain endeavour to prevail upon him to enter the boat he was left on board, and was last seen kneeling on deck in the act of prayer (Account prefixed to the Obsequies). His death, according to Baker, took place on 10 Aug. (4 Id. Sextilis) 1637; but his name in the audit books occurs in the list of Lady day 1638; it is also entered, but erased, in the list of midsummer 1638. His name, written by himself in a small and very beautiful hand, occurs in a college order written in an old lease book.

King's reputation for poetical ability is hardly sustained by his extant compositions, all of which were contributed to various collections of poems by Cambridge scholars. They are as follows: 1. Four metrical compositions in Latin, signed ‘Ed. King, Coll. Christi Socius,’ in pp. 36–9 of a volume entitled ‘Genethliacum illustrissimorum principum, Caroli et Mariæ, a Musis Cantabrigiensibus celebratum,’ Cambridge, 1631, on the occasion of the birth of the Princess Mary on 4 Nov. 1631. 2. Some Latin iambics on pp. 43–4 of a collection of Cambridge verses celebrating the king's recovery from the small-pox in the winter of 1632, and entitled ‘Anthologia in Regis Exanthemata; seu gratulatio Musarum Cantab. de felicissime asservata Regis Caroli valetudine,’ Cambridge, 1633 (reprinted in Nichols's Collection of Poems, vii. 76–85). 3. Latin iambics in a similar collection congratulating the king on his safe return from Scotland in July 1633, entitled ‘Rex redux, sive Musa Cantabrigiensis, etc., de incolumitate et felici reditu Regis Caroli post receptam coronam comitiaque peracta in Scotia,’ Cambridge, 1633. 4. Latin iambics prefixed to ‘Senile Odium,’ by Peter Hausted [q. v.], 1633. 5. Latin elegiacs in another collection on the birth of the Duke of York on 15 Oct. 1633, entitled ‘Ducis Eboracensis Fasciæ a Musis Cantabrigiensibus raptim contextæ,’ Cambridge, 1633. 6. Latin stanzas in a like collection in honour of the birth of the Princess Elizabeth on 28 Dec. 1635, entitled ‘Carmen Natalitium ad cunas illustrissimæ principis Elizabethæ decantatum, intra nativitatis Domini solemnia, per humiles Cantabrigiæ musas, A.D. 1635.’ 7. Iambic Latin verses in another collection, which was entitled ‘Συνωδία, sive Musarum Cantabrigiensium concentus et congratulatio ad serenissimum Britanniarum Regem Carolum de quinta sua subole, clarissima Principe sibi nuper felicissime nata, A.D. 1637.’

On the intelligence of his death reaching Cambridge, King's fate was commemorated by members of the university in a series of effusions which clearly show that he had inspired among his friends no ordinary esteem and regard. These compositions appeared in two parts, both printed at the university press in 1638; the former containing twenty-three pieces in Latin and Greek, including one by Farnaby, was entitled ‘Justa Edovardo King naufrago ab amicis mœrentibus, amoris et mneias charin.’ The second part contains thirteen English poems, and is entitled ‘Obsequies to the Memorie of Mr. Edward King, Anno Dom. 1638.’ Of these Milton's ‘Lycidas’ is the last. Milton probably modelled his poem after an Italian eclogue entitled ‘Phyllis,’ in which Phyllis's death is bemoaned by a shepherd called Lycidas; the author, Actius Syncerus Sannazarius, was one of Milton's favourite poets.

[Masson's Life of Milton, vol. i.; information supplied from college documents by Dr. Peile, master of Christ's College; letter by Professor J. W. Hales in Athenæum, July 1891, pp. 159–160.]

J. B. M.